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World Breastfeeding Week | The Importance of Breastfeeding in Childhood Development.

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Only a few things are better than the sight of a mother breastfeeding her baby as this remains one of the most profound ways through which nursing mothers provide their infant with the perfect nourishment, love and security.
Whenever the subject of breastfeeding is brought to fore, it may be easy to be tempted to think that all the process entails is “feeding the baby through the breast.” But there is absolutely more that goes on during the period of breastfeeding that is just beyond providing an infant with food.

The female human breast milk is the fountain from which the overall development of a child springs. This ‘superfood’ is often considered the most important source of early sustenance for the child at infancy, especially because the breast milk contains proteins, fats, water, micro-nutrients and trace elements. Most of these nutrients enhance human growth and epidermal growth factors which consequently impact on the child’s physical, psychological and cognitive development.

Being a best practice, breastfeeding benefits both the mother and the baby as some of its interests are fundamentally on the fact that it is naturally adapted to the infants physiologic needs at minimal or no cost to mother and society.

The breast milk also contains antibodies that help to protect the infant against bacteria and viruses, lowering the baby’s susceptibility to allergies, the diarrhea illness and respiratory infections.
Since infancy is a period of rapid physical, physiological and mental development, the deficiency of these essential nutrients has dire consequences.

The various forms of breastfeeding options include;

  • Exclusive breast feeding
  • Predominant breast feeding
  • Replacement feeding
  • Mixed feeding
  • Supplementary feeding
  • Complementary feeding

Among these options, the World Health Organization recommends Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six (6) months of life. It also benefits the baby if the breastfeeding continues for at least the second year of life and/or even longer.
Indeed, Exclusive Breastfeeding may be one of the most challenging feeding options for the baby, but its overarching advantages makes the ‘pain’ worth the hassle.

Mother with her breastfeeding child
Photo credit: Pexels

For mothers who adhere to the WHO recommendation, the lasting gains of exclusive breastfeeding encompass an increased Intelligent quotient (IQ) as well as better mental and physical fitness later in the child’s adolescence. Therefore, it could be safe to say that mothers can help their children achieve their optimal development and full potential by being very intentional about breastfeeding.

The place of proper breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized as it ensures optimal growth, protection and development of the child for at least the first five years of life.

As we celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week (August 1st – 7th), let’s all join hands, in the spirit of the Innocenti Declaration to encourage, promote and “support breastfeeding for a healthier planet.

Here’s to Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies!


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Dr. Gbenga is a Chief Family Medicine Consultant at National Hospital, Abuja, Nigeria. He is enthusiastic about contemporary health technology and passionate about creative innovations especially the ones that promote healthcare in Africa.

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